Report by Orissadiary correspondent; Bhubaneswar: Ms. Arundhati Jena, Secretary, NIRMAN, an NGO based at Nayagarh district of the state, who was the anchor of the programme said that, “SSI is a method of Sugarcane Cultivation, which is of great benefit to the small and marginal sugarcane farmers of Odisha as with less input they are getting more yields. In the conventional cultivation, where the farmers are using 3 to 4 tonnes of sugarcane as seed material, now the same can be saved, as SSI needs only 50 kilos of bud chips removed from the canes and the rest of the canes can be used for making jaggery or sent to the sugar mills.” She added that SSI has to be adopted by farmers based on the local conditions to get more benefits.
The SSI manual to be launched is a groundbreaking insight to sugarcane cultivation with farm-based approaches based on principles of ‘more with less’ in agriculture. Very similar to System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in rice, the concepts are now being extended to the sugarcane crop through Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI). It increases the profitability of the farmers significantly while reducing the inputs — water, fertilizer, seed material and improving the productivity of water, land and labour and the sugarcane industry is benefiting from the huge profits accrued thanks to good quality sugarcane as well as recovery.
Dr. Damodar Rout, the Minister for Agriculture, Government of Orissa, formally released the Manual on Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) in Odia Language. Appreciating the ongoing work on SSI by the local NGO NIRMAN with the marginal farmers of Nayagarh with the support of ICRISAT-WWF Project, the Minister expressed that there should be a healthy coordination between the civil society organizations and the government departments for the greater benefit of the people - in this context, for the betterment of the sugarcane farmers. He expressed that, “SSI is a method of cultivation of sugarcane which uses less water, less seed, less fertilizers and less labor, which in turn reduces the cost of cultivation for the farmer, while increasing the productivity.”
The Minister was speaking at the occasion of “More with Less - Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) in Odisa, Launch of SSI Manual in Odia”, held at Red Cross Bhawan, Bhubaneshwar on 13th April 2010. Appreciating the success of this method introduced in Odisha which has now been taken up for the second consecutive year by the sugarcane farmers in the Nayagarh district, the Minister expressed that SSI will be scaled up with the support of the Agriculture Departments in the state. He said that the SRI methods which have been successful in ensuring the food security for small and marginal farmers over the last few years could now be replicated through the SSI principles in sugarcane. Around 70 agriculture and extension officers from various districts of the state were present at the occasion in order to learn and share their experiences with SSI.
Mr. Natawar Sarangi, a renowned organic farmer was invited to release the SSI Farmers’ Guidebook.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Biksham Gujja, the Team Leader of ICRISAT-WWF Project and Senior Advisor, Freshwater Programme, WWF-International gave an overall perspective of the need for the conservation of freshwater systems globally. Dr. Gujja stressed that methods like SRI and SSI will not only help in mitigating the present water crisis but at the same time improve the water productivity. He made strong suggestions to the Government of Orissa for taking up at least 1000 ha of SSI next season, trainings to extension officers, wider publication and dissemination of the manual, provide good quality bud chippers, support drip irrigation to save water, promote bio-fertilizers, ensure millers provide quality seedlings with 50% subsidy in the beginning. He further stated other areas of exploration like more involvement of women groups for raising nurseries, launching the SSI programme with NGOs, millers, researchers and Government agencies.
The other dignitaries to grace the occasion and shared their views included Dr. Babaji Giri, Addl. Director, of Agriculture, Prof. Radhamohan, Environmentalist (Ex-Commissioner, RTI), Mr. Sisir Kumar Parija, Consultant on Organic Farming and SSI. The audience included the SSI farmers with whom NIRMAN is working, personnel from several national media, other than the government officials of the state.